In the latest issue:

Real Men Go to Tehran

Adam Shatz

What Trump doesn’t know about Iran

Patrick Cockburn

Kaiser Karl V

Thomas Penn

The Hostile Environment

Catherine Hall

Social Mobilities

Adam Swift

Short Cuts: So much for England

Tariq Ali

What the jihadis left behind

Nelly Lahoud

Ray Strachey

Francesca Wade

C.J. Sansom

Malcolm Gaskill

At the British Museum: ‘Troy: Myth and Reality’

James Davidson

Poem: ‘The Lion Tree’

Jamie McKendrick

SurrogacyTM

Jenny Turner

Boys in Motion

Nicholas Penny

‘Trick Mirror’

Lauren Oyler

Diary: What really happened in Yancheng?

Long Ling

Close

Terms and Conditions

These terms and conditions of use refer to the London Review of Books and the London Review Bookshop website (www.lrb.co.uk — hereafter ‘LRB Website’). These terms and conditions apply to all users of the LRB Website ("you"), including individual subscribers to the print edition of the LRB who wish to take advantage of our free 'subscriber only' access to archived material ("individual users") and users who are authorised to access the LRB Website by subscribing institutions ("institutional users").

Each time you use the LRB Website you signify your acceptance of these terms and conditions. If you do not agree, or are not comfortable with any part of this document, your only remedy is not to use the LRB Website.


  1. By registering for access to the LRB Website and/or entering the LRB Website by whatever route of access, you agree to be bound by the terms and conditions currently prevailing.
  2. The London Review of Books ("LRB") reserves the right to change these terms and conditions at any time and you should check for any alterations regularly. Continued usage of the LRB Website subsequent to a change in the terms and conditions constitutes acceptance of the current terms and conditions.
  3. The terms and conditions of any subscription agreements which educational and other institutions have entered into with the LRB apply in addition to these terms and conditions.
  4. You undertake to indemnify the LRB fully for all losses damages and costs incurred as a result of your breaching these terms and conditions.
  5. The information you supply on registration to the LRB Website shall be accurate and complete. You will notify the LRB promptly of any changes of relevant details by emailing the registrar. You will not assist a non-registered person to gain access to the LRB Website by supplying them with your password. In the event that the LRB considers that you have breached the requirements governing registration, that you are in breach of these terms and conditions or that your or your institution's subscription to the LRB lapses, your registration to the LRB Website will be terminated.
  6. Each individual subscriber to the LRB (whether a person or organisation) is entitled to the registration of one person to use the 'subscriber only' content on the web site. This user is an 'individual user'.
  7. The London Review of Books operates a ‘no questions asked’ cancellation policy in accordance with UK legislation. Please contact us to cancel your subscription and receive a full refund for the cost of all unposted issues.
  8. Use of the 'subscriber only' content on the LRB Website is strictly for the personal use of each individual user who may read the content on the screen, download, store or print single copies for their own personal private non-commercial use only, and is not to be made available to or used by any other person for any purpose.
  9. Each institution which subscribes to the LRB is entitled to grant access to persons to register on and use the 'subscriber only' content on the web site under the terms and conditions of its subscription agreement with the LRB. These users are 'institutional users'.
  10. Each institutional user of the LRB may access and search the LRB database and view its entire contents, and may also reproduce insubstantial extracts from individual articles or other works in the database to which their institution's subscription provides access, including in academic assignments and theses, online and/or in print. All quotations must be credited to the author and the LRB. Institutional users are not permitted to reproduce any entire article or other work, or to make any commercial use of any LRB material (including sale, licensing or publication) without the LRB's prior written permission. Institutions may notify institutional users of any additional or different conditions of use which they have agreed with the LRB.
  11. Users may use any one computer to access the LRB web site 'subscriber only' content at any time, so long as that connection does not allow any other computer, networked or otherwise connected, to access 'subscriber only' content.
  12. The LRB Website and its contents are protected by copyright and other intellectual property rights. You acknowledge that all intellectual property rights including copyright in the LRB Website and its contents belong to or have been licensed to the LRB or are otherwise used by the LRB as permitted by applicable law.
  13. All intellectual property rights in articles, reviews and essays originally published in the print edition of the LRB and subsequently included on the LRB Website belong to or have been licensed to the LRB. This material is made available to you for use as set out in paragraph 8 (if you are an individual user) or paragraph 10 (if you are an institutional user) only. Save for such permitted use, you may not download, store, disseminate, republish, post, reproduce, translate or adapt such material in whole or in part in any form without the prior written permission of the LRB. To obtain such permission and the terms and conditions applying, contact the Rights and Permissions department.
  14. All intellectual property rights in images on the LRB Website are owned by the LRB except where another copyright holder is specifically attributed or credited. Save for such material taken for permitted use set out above, you may not download, store, disseminate, republish, post, reproduce, translate or adapt LRB’s images in whole or in part in any form without the prior written permission of the LRB. To obtain such permission and the terms and conditions applying, contact the Rights and Permissions department. Where another copyright holder is specifically attributed or credited you may not download, store, disseminate, republish, reproduce or translate such images in whole or in part in any form without the prior written permission of the copyright holder. The LRB will not undertake to supply contact details of any attributed or credited copyright holder.
  15. The LRB Website is provided on an 'as is' basis and the LRB gives no warranty that the LRB Website will be accessible by any particular browser, operating system or device.
  16. The LRB makes no express or implied representation and gives no warranty of any kind in relation to any content available on the LRB Website including as to the accuracy or reliability of any information either in its articles, essays and reviews or in the letters printed in its letter page or material supplied by third parties. The LRB excludes to the fullest extent permitted by law all liability of any kind (including liability for any losses, damages or costs) arising from the publication of any materials on the LRB Website or incurred as a consequence of using or relying on such materials.
  17. The LRB excludes to the fullest extent permitted by law all liability of any kind (including liability for any losses, damages or costs) for any legal or other consequences (including infringement of third party rights) of any links made to the LRB Website.
  18. The LRB is not responsible for the content of any material you encounter after leaving the LRB Website site via a link in it or otherwise. The LRB gives no warranty as to the accuracy or reliability of any such material and to the fullest extent permitted by law excludes all liability that may arise in respect of or as a consequence of using or relying on such material.
  19. This site may be used only for lawful purposes and in a manner which does not infringe the rights of, or restrict the use and enjoyment of the site by, any third party. In the event of a chat room, message board, forum and/or news group being set up on the LRB Website, the LRB will not undertake to monitor any material supplied and will give no warranty as to its accuracy, reliability, originality or decency. By posting any material you agree that you are solely responsible for ensuring that it is accurate and not obscene, defamatory, plagiarised or in breach of copyright, confidentiality or any other right of any person, and you undertake to indemnify the LRB against all claims, losses, damages and costs incurred in consequence of your posting of such material. The LRB will reserve the right to remove any such material posted at any time and without notice or explanation. The LRB will reserve the right to disclose the provenance of such material, republish it in any form it deems fit or edit or censor it. The LRB will reserve the right to terminate the registration of any person it considers to abuse access to any chat room, message board, forum or news group provided by the LRB.
  20. Any e-mail services supplied via the LRB Website are subject to these terms and conditions.
  21. You will not knowingly transmit any virus, malware, trojan or other harmful matter to the LRB Website. The LRB gives no warranty that the LRB Website is free from contaminating matter, viruses or other malicious software and to the fullest extent permitted by law disclaims all liability of any kind including liability for any damages, losses or costs resulting from damage to your computer or other property arising from access to the LRB Website, use of it or downloading material from it.
  22. The LRB does not warrant that the use of the LRB Website will be uninterrupted, and disclaims all liability to the fullest extent permitted by law for any damages, losses or costs incurred as a result of access to the LRB Website being interrupted, modified or discontinued.
  23. The LRB Website contains advertisements and promotional links to websites and other resources operated by third parties. While we would never knowingly link to a site which we believed to be trading in bad faith, the LRB makes no express or implied representations or warranties of any kind in respect of any third party websites or resources or their contents, and we take no responsibility for the content, privacy practices, goods or services offered by these websites and resources. The LRB excludes to the fullest extent permitted by law all liability for any damages or losses arising from access to such websites and resources. Any transaction effected with such a third party contacted via the LRB Website are subject to the terms and conditions imposed by the third party involved and the LRB accepts no responsibility or liability resulting from such transactions.
  24. The LRB disclaims liability to the fullest extent permitted by law for any damages, losses or costs incurred for unauthorised access or alterations of transmissions or data by third parties as consequence of visit to the LRB Website.
  25. While 'subscriber only' content on the LRB Website is currently provided free to subscribers to the print edition of the LRB, the LRB reserves the right to impose a charge for access to some or all areas of the LRB Website without notice.
  26. These terms and conditions are governed by and will be interpreted in accordance with English law and any disputes relating to these terms and conditions will be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales.
  27. The various provisions of these terms and conditions are severable and if any provision is held to be invalid or unenforceable by any court of competent jurisdiction then such invalidity or unenforceability shall not affect the remaining provisions.
  28. If these terms and conditions are not accepted in full, use of the LRB Website must be terminated immediately.
Close

The rioting in the Northern, predominantly Muslim city of Kaduna that forced the organisers to withdraw the Miss World competition has brought into question once again the viability of the project called Nigeria. The riots themselves were triggered by a newspaper article suggesting that the Prophet Muhammad would have approved of the presence of the beauty queens, and perhaps chosen a wife or two from among them, but that was just an excuse. Anything can – and does – ignite a riot in Kaduna, and there were Muslims who’d been itching for a showdown ever since Nigeria was chosen to host the event. It was an irresistible opportunity to show the world the kind of religious intolerance that led the deputy governor of Zamfara to issue a fatwa against Isioma Daniel, the journalist who’d written the offending article, days after the riots, as though enough blood hadn’t already been shed: the death toll was more than two hundred at the last count.

I saw this intolerance for myself when I travelled around the Sharia states last March. I took to asking the (invariably male) Muslim journalists I met how death by stoning – the prescribed punishment for adultery – would actually be carried out. Two women, Safiya Husseini and Amina Lawal, had become pregnant in the absence of their estranged husbands and received the prescribed sentence (though the former was soon to be acquitted on a technicality). Most of the journalists ducked the question and I didn’t blame them. They would have automatically assumed that, as a Christian and a Southerner, I was hostile to this latest manifestation of Islamic fundamentalism, even if my manner hadn’t given me away. At the same time, in keeping with Islamic injunction, they were reluctant to be rude to a visitor. Only one, a tall, ascetic man in his fifties employed by one of the publicly funded state radio stations to ‘enlighten the people on the ethics and tenets of Islam’, came right out and said that the person to be executed would be buried in a pit up to their neck, whereupon the faithful would gather round and throw stones. I asked whether the stones would be of a particular size and weight but he couldn’t say, although he supposed that they would have to be heavy enough to do the job reasonably quickly and avoid any ‘unnecessary suffering’. I asked whether he would take part and he said yes, he would, but quickly added that he doubted whether the sentence would actually be carried out, that even in Saudi Arabia, the home of Islam, the practice had either been abolished or was in the process of being abolished – which was as maybe but hardly the point.

That the imposition of Sharia discriminates against women has been a source of international outrage, notably in Italy, where the condemned Husseini was adopted by the national football team in the run-up to the World Cup. The alleged father of her baby didn’t have to do anything more than protest his innocence, because, as the judge put it, ‘a man is not a woman, whereby she will have a protruding stomach to show.’ For a man to be found guilty in this sort of case, four male witnesses are required to have seen ‘the penis inside the woman’s vagina’. Needless to say, there were no such witnesses. The 40-year-old local government worker accused of fathering Lawal’s child was known by everyone in the village to be sweet on her, though the prospect of being stoned to death was enough to make him deny that they had done anything more than hold hands: ‘Yes, I agree that she was my girlfriend but I never had any sexual intimacy with her.’ He was even willing to cast the first stone: ‘I cannot plead for her pardon because I will be going against the law of Allah . . . Since she was found guilty and already a death sentence has been passed, it should be executed as directed.’ Perhaps to show that he wasn’t a complete rat, he added that she was ‘a nice woman’ who was merely ‘unfortunate that this thing has happened to her’ – cold comfort to her younger brother, who never doubted the guilt of the government worker. ‘The man was declared innocent because he swore on the Holy Koran,’ the brother remarked. ‘There is no truth in it. Now there is a death sentence hanging on the neck of my sister, while the man who impregnated her has gone scot-free.’

Not that all men could salve their consciences so easily. In one pathetic case last August, two lovers were sentenced to stoning when the father of the pregnant woman, angered by her boyfriend Ahmadu’s refusal to do the decent thing, took the matter to the authorities. The last thing he wanted was to punish Fatima, his daughter, who was now ‘spoiled’, but he was eager for Ahmadu to pay the price. The police obviously know the quickest way to obtain a confession, and Ahmadu came clean, much to the father’s relief, but everything went horribly wrong when the case finally went to court and the judge, applying what he presumed to be the letter of the law, sentenced both parties to five years’ imprisonment or a fine of N15,000 (£75), and then, a fortnight later, changed his mind and sentenced them to death by stoning, in line with the new Sharia law. The distraught father, who claimed that he had bribed the judge to swing the case his way with the little money he could scrape together, could only regret his decision: ‘I have left everything to God. They should release my daughter for me. I thought that the court was going to solve the problem . . . but, instead, it has spoiled it.’ The judge, who refuted the allegation of bribery, had little sympathy for the father: ‘I believe he knew what he was saying and the consequences. His head is correct. I asked the boy too whether his head was correct and he said yes. I also asked . . . Fatima and she said her head was correct.’ Besides, he pointed out, ‘ignorance of the law is no excuse.’

Yet his own familiarity with the law left much to be desired. In the first place, Section 388 of the Penal Code, which deals with extramarital sexual intercourse, stipulates ‘imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years or a fine or both’. In the second place, it was illegal for the same judge to retry his own case in the absence of a judicial review.

Unfortunately, this cavalier approach is the norm in the area courts in the North. Husseini was sentenced to stoning even though Sharia had not actually been enacted into law at the time she committed her ‘crime’. (It’s on these grounds that the decision was overturned; Lawal’s lawyers are currently using the same defence.) Area courts, which now account for about 80 per cent of all cases in Nigeria, were originally established by the colonial authorities to adjudicate in civil cases between Muslims involving only Muslim personal law. They were never intended to exercise jurisdiction in criminal matters, which was the preserve of the common law courts inherited from the British. The ambiguity of the area courts in the North has been compounded by the introduction of Sharia, the Constitutional legality of which is itself in doubt.

The current Constitution of the Federal Republic – the keystone of the latest democratic experiment, begun in May 1999 after 15 continuous years of military rule – followed all previous Constitutions in guaranteeing Nigeria’s secular status. In other words, it recognises the country’s complex ethnic and religious make-up, and in Section 10 forbids the adoption of any religion as a state religion. Within months of the new dispensation, however, one Northern House of Assembly after another voted to incorporate Sharia into its legal system. Twelve of the country’s 19 states have now done so. In others, where Animists and Christians predominate, there have been violent clashes. President Olusegun Obasanjo, himself a Christian and a Southerner, hardly helped matters by claiming at the outset that the enthusiasm for Sharia would soon ‘fizzle out’ and was best ignored, but there isn’t much he can do in any case, given that he owes his Presidency to the North, whose politicians reluctantly conceded power to a Southerner they felt they could trust in order to prevent another civil war. Sharia, which was never an issue under previous Northern rulers, now became a crude way to demonstrate the limits of Obasanjo’s power. The Supreme Court, which has ultimate jurisdiction over Constitutional matters, has refused to give a ruling on the status of Sharia, although the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, also a Christian, also a Southerner, took it upon himself to circulate a letter to the relevant state governors declaring it illegal on the grounds that it infringed the rights of Muslims by subjecting them ‘to a punishment more severe than would be imposed on other Nigerians for the same offence’.

This clever but pointless piece of legalism was duly ignored: within a week, Amina Lawal’s sentence was confirmed in Katsina (the very day Safiya Husseini’s sentence was quashed in Sokoto). Five months later, the Governor of Niger refused to intervene on behalf of Ahmadu and Fatima because, in his own words, theirs was ‘a purely judicial matter’, and ‘the rule of law must take its course.’ Three other people, all of them men, currently face death by stoning: Attahiru Umaru, for raping a seven-year-old boy in Kebbi; Mallam Ado Bamanda, for raping a nine-year-old girl in Jigawa; and Yunusa Rafiu Chiyawa, for raping a married woman he abducted from her home in Bauchi. The fact that these last three are criminals, not to say male, has meant that their cases have passed unnoticed by the outside world. This is not lost on many of the journalists I spoke with, who seized on their invisibility to berate the ‘Western hypocrisy’ that threatens war against Iraq for defying UN resolutions, while Israel routinely ignores them, or which turns Husseini into an honorary citizen of Rome following her acquittal while rounding up Nigerian prostitutes in Italian cities and deporting them.

To date, only the poor have suffered amputation of the limbs, the prescribed punishment for theft: the right hand on the first count, the left foot on the second, the left hand on the third, the right foot on the fourth, although provision is made for cross-limb amputation – right hand, left foot – in particularly serious cases. The first victim was Ibrahim Jangedi from Zamfara, who lost his right hand for stealing a cow worth N5000 (£25). He was followed by Lawal Isah, also from Zamfara, for stealing three bicycles. Currently, a third man, Bello Garba from Sokoto, is facing the loss of his right hand for stealing a donkey, worth half the price of a cow. The former military dictator, General Ibrahim Babangida, is yet to account for the US$12.2 billion in oil revenues that went missing in the course of his unelected tenure which ended in fiasco in 1993, when he annulled the democratic elections he had organised in order that his deputy and long-time fellow coup-plotter, General Sani Abacha, might also indulge in an embezzlement spree. In ‘retirement’, Babangida has made no attempt to hide his fabulous wealth, as I saw for myself when I passed through Minna, the capital of Niger state, where his hilltop mansion – imported Italian marble throughout – mocks the mud-built slums below. There are those who see his involvement in the agitation behind Sharia as part of a convoluted plan to prepare for his second coming. Perhaps they are right. It is certainly the case that he made the first attempt to take Nigeria into the Organisation of the Islamic Conference in the late 1980s at the behest of Saudi Arabia, a country he is known to visit regularly (he is a devout Muslim).

Saudi interest in Nigeria, which has more Muslims as well as more Christians than any other country in sub-Saharan Africa, was apparent in Sokoto, the seat of the Caliphate, where the state government received N520 million (£2.6 million) to build an Institute for Koran and General Studies. The Institute was opened by the chief imam of the Grand Mosque at Mecca, Sheikh Abdulrahman Al-Sudais, who confirmed that ‘Saudi authority is behind the Institute and will do everything possible to upgrade its standard.’ I was unable to establish whether the Saudis are also behind the colleges of Islamic Legal Studies in all the nine states I visited, including Jigawa, where the sole state-owned television station relays programmes from the English-language service of Saudi TV. For all this, the North continues to lag behind the South in literacy rates, a problem which exercises its more enlightened leaders, including the country’s Vice-President, Atiku Abubakar, who complained that only four of the states had adhered to the Agenda for Action formulated at the beginning of the new ‘democratic’ dispensation in allocating 26 per cent of their budget to education.

The result can be seen in the bus stations of all the state capitals, where the al-Majiris, teenage boys attached to Koranic teachers, go about begging for their daily bread. These boys, who are required to learn the Koran by rote in Arabic, a language that isn’t spoken in Nigeria, usually hang around in groups of a dozen or so, barefoot and in rags, or trail behind a teenage female hawker in search of devout travellers anxious to fulfil the Islamic injunction on charity. The girls themselves, some as young as 12, with kohl-rimmed eyes and painted lips that flash gold whenever they smile, sell more than bean cakes, sugar cane and oranges. One of them, Bariya Ibrahim Magazu, was charged in Zamfara with engaging in premarital sex and bringing false accusations against three men she said had slept with her. She was found guilty and sentenced to 180 lashes. The punishment was administered before her appeal was heard, despite the lack of a ‘protruding stomach to show’, and in the absence of even one of the men she was supposed to have slept with.

One perverse feature of the Islamist obsession over who is having sex with whom and why, is the lack of concern about Aids, to say nothing of unwanted pregnancies, which are flourishing in Nigeria. It doesn’t take long to notice the scarcity of billboards advertising condoms, while the publicly funded radio stations are apparently forbidden to inform their listeners about the advantages of safe sex. I was told this would only encourage men to patronise ‘illegal’ women, which was un-Islamic, like so much else.

Daily readings from the Koran occupy well over 10 per cent of airtime on every station, in contravention of the National Broadcasting Commission rules. Not every journalist approves of what is going on, but there is little they can do if they want to continue working in states without alternative radio stations and where the few existing weekly newspapers – one in Sokoto, one in Kebbi, one in Zamfara – are dedicated to the re-election of the state governor. In Zamfara, the first state to adopt Sharia, a newly constituted Ministry of Religious Affairs ensures adherence to the party line. The Ministry’s information officer, a bearded man in a flowing white robe, gave me a selection of pamphlets. One, written by a former Christian from Canada (a fact that was loudly flagged), discussed whether or not it was permissible for a woman to show her hands and face in public. Scholars were quoted for and against but in the end the author, being a Canadian, came down firmly on the side of the liberals. Zamfara, which borders the Sahel, is a poor state with few resources, yet the three-storey Ministry was able to fund an entire office for the ‘moon sighting committee’, which didn’t open its doors in the time I was there, presumably because we were still a fair way from Ramadan (which was, incidentally, when the beauty queens were expected).

The waste of money in states that depend entirely on the Federation Account – that is to say, petrodollars from the South – is sometimes shocking. In Kebbi, for instance, one sees almost as many camels as people; yet the state government gave each of Kebbi’s four emirs a limousine for their personal use at a total cost of £600,000, in addition to paying the monthly salaries of all thirty chief imams. As with Sharia, the reason is political: these men have the power to make or break politicians. Women constituents don’t count of course, as the following comments from independent monitors around the North at the last elections make very clear: in Sokoto, ‘there was . . . a problem in inking the voter’s left thumb nail’ because ‘the culture of the area does not allow an adult male to touch a married female voter’; in Kaduna, ‘married women don’t normally come out to the polling station’ and ‘are usually represented by their husbands’; in Kano, ‘only seven women showed up for accreditation and polling’; in Kebbi, ‘the people of the area have a kind of tradition of voting for their wives, depending on the agreement reached between the agents of all the parties’; in Zamfara, ‘no single woman came for voting.’ Women are not represented in the Houses of Assembly that pass the laws which would stone them to death for what they do in private. That a woman will sooner or later suffer this gruesome fate is not in doubt. Obasanjo has washed his hands of any responsibility in the matter of Amina Lawal. He simply hopes she ‘will escape Sharia law’, but adds that, if she doesn’t, ‘I will weep for myself, I will weep for Amina Lawal, I will weep for Nigeria.’ The sentence is due to be carried out next September, after she has weaned the fruit of her sin, but as a correspondent wrote to one of the newspapers in the South, ‘Amina must not die. To allow this to happen in Nigeria will be a national calamity.’ Quite so – with Obasanjo himself among the tearful sympathisers.

Send Letters To:

The Editor
London Review of Books,
28 Little Russell Street
London, WC1A 2HN

letters@lrb.co.uk

Please include name, address, and a telephone number.

Read anywhere with the London Review of Books app, available now from the App Store for Apple devices, Google Play for Android devices and Amazon for your Kindle Fire.

Sign up to our newsletter

For highlights from the latest issue, our archive and the blog, as well as news, events and exclusive promotions.